1944 October 5

Poet Langston Hughes Tops Anti-Communist List with 49 “Affiliations”


It was revealed on this day that the noted African-American poet Langston Hughes topped the list of alleged Communists and “fellow travelers” compiled by J. B. Matthews, a staff member of The House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC). Hughes’ file indicated that he was “affiliated” in some way with 49 allegedly left-wing organizations, and involved 2,000 pages.

The labeling of Hughes as a Communist sympathizer was characteristic of the guilt-by-association tactic of the anti-Communist movement. He was labeled solely on the basis of groups that he was reportedly associated with, and with no evidence of any illegal activity on his part or any proven “subversive” or illegal activity on the part of the groups he was allegedly associated with.

A collection of Langston Hughes’ poems was one of the books removed from a Long Island, NY, school library in a censorship controversy in the 1970s. See the case of Island Trees v. Pico, June 25, 1982 and August 12, 1982.

J. B. Matthews, a former left-wing activist who later became a hard-core anti-Communist, had a very brief and controversial role as Senator Joe McCarthy’s staff member; he was quickly fired when he accused the mainstream Protestant denominations of being filled with Communist sympathizers (see July 9, 1953).

Read Langston Hughes poems: The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes (1994)

Hear Langston Hughes reading his poem “The Weary Blues”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uM7HSOwJw20

Learn more about Langston Hughes at the Academy of American Poets:  http://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poet/langston-hughes

Read Anne Braden’s critique of HUAC racism: Anne Braden, HUAC: Bulwark of Segregation (1964)

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